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A University Senate task force will survey student and faculty opinion on the Reserve Officers' Training Corps next month, with the full senate likely to vote on whether or not to invite ROTC back to campus by the end of the semester. The Task Force on Military Engagement, chaired by Ron Mazor, CC '09, Law '12, will host three town halls and email a poll to the student body in February to gauge campus opinion. The task force plans to present a summary of their findings to the senate in March, likely leading to an April vote. "Our purpose is to gather information and provide a report or a summary, or a perspective on what the campus thinks about ROTC, rather than [make] a recommendation or decision," said Alex Frouman, CC '12, a University senator and member of the task force. The task force was created after last month's repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which had prevented gay soldiers from serving openly and had been at the center of the opposition to the return of ROTC. Students were initially barred from participating in the program on campus—once a core requirement for all Columbia students—in the 1960s, following protests over the Vietnam War. The poll will be sent to all students enrolled in Columbia College, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Barnard College, the School of General Studies, and the School of International and Public Affairs, which have had off-campus ROTC cadets enrolled in the last five years. Mazor said that "logistical constraints" prevented the task force from polling the entire graduate and undergraduate student body, and that it opted to limit the poll to those students who might realistically be affected by the institution of an ROTC program. "We wanted to make sure that the sample size wasn't skewed by the opinions of individuals who might not have any stake at all in a change," Mazor said. But even a yes vote by the University Senate would be only the first step toward bringing the ROTC back to Columbia. The University would then need to convince a branch of the Department of Defense to institute a program, and, as Frouman noted, each branch already has a program in New York City. As task force member and astronomy professor Jim Applegate said, "We can decide we want to dance, but we need a dance partner." John McClelland, GS, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, noted that a University Senate vote is only the first step toward bringing ROTC back to Columbia. "This is simply just what Columbia thinks about it," McClelland said. "Essentially what the vote is, is Columbia agreeing to start a dialogue with the military." Jose Robledo, GS, a University senator and an ROTC cadet who oversees training for all the cadets who attend school in Manhattan, noted that despite the absence of an ROTC program at Columbia, students have been able to enroll in ROTC programs at other local schools. He said that even if the ROTC does not return right away, officially inviting them back to campus would lead to administrators doing more to support current ROTC cadets. Robledo said the University might give cadets physical education credit for the training they do through ROTC, for instance. He also noted that when Columbia ROTC cadets wanted to start a weekly flag-raising ceremony on the Morningside Heights campus in November, they had to go through the University Senate for approval. "There's no other student group on campus that has to go through the University Senate except ROTC cadets," Robledo said. Robledo expressed optimism that students and faculty will support overturning the ROTC ban. Applegate, too, said that he expects the University Senate to overturn the ban, since recent opposition has been based around the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The University Senate last voted on the issue in 2005, when it upheld the ban by a 53-10 vote. In 2008, a poll of undergraduates found 51 percent opposed to inviting ROTC back. "I think if you get rid of 'don't ask, don't tell,' then people should be in favor of ROTC at Columbia," Applegate said. "If you evaluate this based on the contributions to education at Columbia, it's a straightforward yes vote." Robledo said that the increasing number of veterans enrolling in GS has also led to more widespread acceptance of the military. "The University climate has changed as far as how it feels about the military," he said. The first town hall will take place the week of Feb. 7, with the second and third following each of the next two weeks. The second town hall will be geared toward undergraduate students, and the third will be geared toward faculty and graduate students, though all three will be open to any Columbia ID-holder, Mazor said. He added that the task force will also set up a website detailing the history of Columbia's relationship with the ROTC, and accept emailed opinions. sammy.roth@columbiaspectator.com An earlier version of this article stated that students in the law school would be surveyed on their opinions regarding ROTC. The law school has not produced an ROTC cadet in the last five years. The graduate school that has is SIPA. Spectator regrets this error.

USenate Town Hall ROTC military veterans
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